US probing Russia role in Syria chemical attack

US defense official says Syrian forces carried out attack because of 'battlefield desperation'

US probing Russia role in Syria chemical attack

World Bulletin / News Desk

 The U.S. is looking into whether Russia had any role in a deadly chemical attack in Syria, a senior defense official said Friday.

That includes a careful assessment of any information that could indicate Moscow knew about or assisted with the attack, the official said on condition that he not be named.

He said the chemical weapons attack Tuesday in Khan Shaykhun, Idlib, was conducted because of the Syrian regime's "battlefield desperation" caused by successive opposition gains in Hama province that threatened an airbase there, and inched closer to connecting opposition territories in Hama and Idlib.

“This was a significant risk to the regime. They were under a lot of pressure," he said.

The official voiced  "high confidence" that a nerve agent similar to sarin was used in the attack, saying that the symptoms victims displayed are consistent with a nerve agent.

Following the initial attack, a hospital that was treating patients affected by the gas was struck from the air. So far, the U.S. does not know who carried out that sortie, but the official said "the fact that somebody would strike the hospital potentially to hide the evidence of a chemical attack about five hours after… is a question we’re very interested in.”

Tuesday's chemical attack killed at least 100 people and injured more than 500.

In response, the U.S. fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian military air base American officials believe was used to carry out the attack.

The missiles were fired from two U.S. destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean and hit the air base at approximately 3.45 a.m. Syrian local time Friday (0045 GMT). Aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars were targeted, the Pentagon said.

The official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity denied Russian claims that a memorandum agreement with them to help prevent accidental clashes has been suspended. The U.S. confirmed with Russia that the agreement was still active after the attack, he said.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson conceded that the runway at the targeted Syrian air base was still in use, but said the U.S. strike destroyed about 20 percent of the Syrian Air Force's 7th Wing.

Regarding a potential Russian role in Tuesday's attack, Tillerson said he does not "have any information that it would be appropriate to share with you at this point”.

Separately, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said additional sanctions against Syria are forthcoming, but declined to offer details.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 08 Nisan 2017, 09:52